Environmentalists blame El Salvador devastation on deforestation and bad city planning

Local environmentalists have said that the high level of death and destruction resulting from a recent earthquake is the fault of corruption by local officials allowing ill-advised development and deforestation.

An as yet unknown number of people died after a powerful earthquake hit the Central American nation on 13 November, but estimates have placed the number at well over a thousand, perhaps 90% in the middle-class neighbourhood of Las Colinas, the site of a recent development scandal. Media reports have cited rescue workers saying that the area had been buried because the mountain overlooking the district had been deforested and cut away by building developers, despite protests and lawsuits.

For several years, environmental groups such as the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CESTA) and local residents have campaigned against the deforestation and new housing development on the sides of the Cordillera El Balsamo, the mountain range overlooking Las Colinas. CESTA says that before the neighbourhood was built a lawsuit was lodged to prevent it, but it was later turned down after the Environment Ministry approved an environmental impact assessment for the area. Some allege corruption by local officials allowed the development to take place.

Red Cross spokesman, Dennis McClean, was certain the disaster had been made worse by the erosion of topsoil caused by tree felling. “One of the contributory factors to the high loss of life in this disaster has been deforestation,” he said.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie